First Place in Division Still Within Reach

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- First place in the division is still within reach, but Tennessee must reverse its course to keep it that way.

The Titans (5-6) have lost four straight games, knocking them from first (in October) to last in the AFC South.  The good news is they haven't fallen too far behind divisional leaders Indianapolis (6-5) and Jacksonville (6-5), despite a winless November.

Although Tennessee lost 20-0 at Houston (5-6) Sunday, the Titans received help when the New York Giants defeated the Jaguars and the San Diego Chargers defeated the Colts.

"If there's ever an opportunity to take advantage of the division, this is the year, so it's disappointing to be where we are right now, but we're still in it," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "We just have to find a way to win the first game."

Tennessee hosts Jacksonville at noon Sunday at LP Field in the rematch of an Oct. 18 game the Titans won 30-3. The Titans suffered injuries to quarterbacks Vince Young (knee and ankle sprain) and Kerry Collins (torn tendon on a finger of his throwing hand) in Jacksonville. The position has been a revolving door ever since, and the offense has sputtered for three straight weeks.

Collins finished off the Jaguars and played through pain in a come-from-behind win against Philadelphia on Oct. 24. Young returned to the lineup Oct. 31 in San Diego but aggravated the ankle injury. Collins started in Miami on Nov. 14 but left with a calf injury and has been out since. Young suffered a season-ending thumb injury on Nov. 21 in an overtime loss to Washington that was finished by rookie QB Rusty Smith.

Smith started at Houston and went 17-for-31 for 138 yards but threw three interceptions, and Tennessee didn't run an offensive play inside Texans' territory until the fourth quarter.

"It's very difficult to play quarterback in the National Football League, especially if you're a rookie in your first start," Fisher said Monday. "There was some evidence of that, some growing pains. He took a little longer at the line of scrimmage to make some checks, was very aware of what was going on."

Fisher said the game plan was to get the running game going early but situations kept the Titans from doing so. Running back Chris Johnson was held to a season-low 5 yards on seven carries. Tennessee had at least one play or a penalty resulting in negative yardage on each of its 10 possessions against the Texans.

Fisher said Young was undergoing surgery on his thumb Monday afternoon. He said the procedure will immobilize the thumb so the tendons in it can be repaired. Fisher said Collins, who was listed as the Titans' No. 2 quarterback against Houston, will be day-to-day this week.

"We'll have a better idea later in the week," Fisher said. "If he can start I'll let you know. There's a competitive difference between Kerry and Vince. There's not a competitive difference, per se, between Rusty and Kerry's style."

Young, who left the locker room while Fisher was addressing the Titans after the Washington game, was placed on injured reserve last week, ending his fifth pro season.

"Vince will be treated like any other player on injured reserve," Fisher said. "Our injured reserve players are on the sideline. They come in (to Baptist Sports Park) on occasion. They walk on the practice field. Vince is not going to be treated any different than anybody else."

Fisher said Sunday's offensive woes caused a solid performance by the defense to be overlooked. Fisher said the defense persevered through a lack of depth and kept Houston from long passing plays.

"We had some players yesterday that played very good," Fisher said. "I thought Michael Griffin had his best game of the year."

Starting defensive end Dave Ball (concussion) and starting defensive tackle Jason Jones (knee) were out of Sunday's game, and defensive tackle Tony Brown's knee gave him problems and Sen'Derrick Marks also went down with a leg injury. Brown has missed multiple practices because of his knee.

"Tony Brown had difficulty after the first series and when (Marks) came down, we were thin," Fisher said. "They played really hard. They're banged up and tired and we're going to have a hard time getting through practice, but they'll answer the bell."

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